The Blade, p.4
12 September 1992.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Ten days ago, a mortar round landed near 4-year-old Arman Sadovic [Bosniak Muslim child] as he played in front of his apartment, blowing the boy apart.
His father, Sado Sadovic, a 40-year-old laundry worker, is in psychiatric ward of Sarajevo’s main hospital — one of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people pushed toward madness by the war for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
His main fear now is that an artilleryman in the hills overlooking this riverside city has targeted him.
“He is aiming at me,” said Mr. Sadovic, dressed in pajamas and unlaced work boots with no socks. “He wants to shoot me down.”
Maria Leovic, a Bosniak, had a Serb boyfriend before the war. They were in love and planned to marry. Then fighting erupted and her lover went over to the other side.
For months, she tried to get a message to him. Now, in the psychiatric ward, she talks constantly of a sniper aiming at her.
“It’s like someone is staring at you from behind,” said the 29-year-old sales clerk. “I feel a burning in my back. He wants to kill me to make sure we can never be together.”
Miss Leovic and Mr. Sadovic are victims of what Dr. Lilijana Oruc, head of the psychiatric ward, calls “Sarajevo syndrome.”
But they occupy only the extreme end of a spectrum of Sarajevans who are slouching toward insanity.
As the Serb siege of this city enters its sixth month, Dr. Oruc says, the whole town is going slightly mad.
Water and electricity shortages, intermittent food supplies, and shelling or sniper fire that can erupt at any second have many among the 400,000 people here at wits’ end. Dr. Oruc describes it as a “kind of mass paranoia” born of fear and exhaustion.
At the beginning of the war, people had the energy to run and hide. Now, Dr. Oruc said, “only neurotics go to shelters.
“No one seems to have the energy to even flinch anymore,” she said. “And they’ve become very suspicious. They don’t trust anybody.”
When she and a Bosnian television crew tried to interview people in her neighborhood about how they cope, no one would talk to her.
“They thought if they talked on television a mortar would hit them on the head,” she said.
When state-run radio broadcast a recent warning for people to stay inside because of possible shelling, and then shelling indeed occurred, people blamed the government for causing the attack.
At the hospital, an orderly was almost beaten when he made a sign reading, “Get water here.”
“They thought he was trying to gather people in one spot so the Serbs could shell us,” said Miroslav Cunic, a doctor’s aide.
From a scientific point of view, Dr. Oruc said, her work has become fascinating.
“For me this is an adventure,” she said,”but then I’m a very curious person.”
Before the war she specialized in psychogenetics, the study of genetically linked mental illness. She also worked on a Columbia University-backed project studying schizophrenia.
When the war began, she was on a trip collecting blood samples from peasant families with histories of insanity.
About 100 people visit the psychiatric clinic every day, five times the prewar average. Although it has only 90 beds, 195 patients stay there, some two to a bed, some sleeping on the floor.
Mirodrag Kaluderovic [Serb], a 31-year-old accountant, was brought to the psychiatric ward three days ago. He hadn’t slept for four days and had lost 33 pounds in two weeks. Asked who he was, he responded: “George Bush.”
Since then, his condition has improved.
“The pressure in Sarajevo is really incredible,” Mr. Kaluderovic said, speaking softly from his hospital bed. “I think anyone at any time can snap.”